For all you Yankees out there who think that barbecue is something that happens with burgers and hotdogs: stop it. That’s just nonsense. Barbecue is the art of marrying smoke and meat in a long, slow ceremony attended by rub and sauce and officiated by a patient priest of the fire god. Hamburgers are good too, but nothing like lip-smacking, drool-inducing, succulent, savory, sweet barbecue. Here are the top smoked foods to try:
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5. Smoked Turkey
Another meat that benefits from brining is turkey. Sure, you can pop the Thanksgiving bird into the oven for hours and end up with a dry, but pretty fowl. However, if you brine and then smoke it, the turkey will be juicy, flavorful and delicious. You might almost be tempted to agree with Ben Franklin and nominate it as the national bird, but then you’d want to eat more and you’d feel bad about eating the national bird.
4. Smoked Bacon
Sure, this is a pig-heavy list, but the porcine species lends itself so well to smoking. Plus, bacon is delicious. You’ll be a shoo-in for any zombie apocalypse team when you tell them you know how to make bacon. The pork belly, oddly enough, is actually the belly of the pig. In addition to being traded on the futures market, they also make bacon. Instead of a hot smoking that cooks the meat like ribs or brisket, bacon is cured with a cold smoke, similar to fish or ham. One of the best things about curing your own bacon is that you can make the recipe exactly how you want it. If you’re diabetic, you can mix the sugar in the brine. If you don’t like nitrates—they keep bacon pink—leave them out. Plus, bacon is delicious.
3. Smoked Boston Butt
It’s not from the back end of the pig and Boston doesn’t really produce them anymore, but the Boston butt is one of the great smoked foods. The name comes from the way that Bostonians would cut the front shoulder of a pig and package it into a barrel known as a butt. It’s a tough, hard-working muscle that needs time to cook well. Smoke provides that time, but it’s usually not enough on its own. A good brine will impart flavor and sass to a Boston butt as it smokes. Once the cooking is done, pull, pull and pull some more—this is where pulled pork sandwich comes from, and it is delicious. Boston butt is a great way to feed a crowd for little money.
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2. Smoked Brisket
While Texans are just plumb wrong about eating beef ribs, their brisket is a key reason to not mess with them. The same tough cut of meat is used for corned beef and pastrami. All the methods of preparation seek to tenderize the cow’s pectoral muscle into something not just edible but delicious. Briskets are flat, wide pieces that take care and patience to cook right. The rub is designed to produce a crunchy bark-like crust on the outside and keep the meat tender and juicy on the inside. The lazy person can use the “Texas Crutch,” which is smoking the brisket for a couple of hours and then wrapping it in foil to braise until it’s done.
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1. Smoked Ribs
There is no finer use for a smoker than making up some ribs. Depending on where you’re from, the ribs might be pork—or beef, if you’re wrong—and they might be baby back or spare and you might use a dry rub or a sauce. Whatever you do, the ribs need to be tender, moist and flavorful. Memphis-style ribs use a dry rub that’s more spicy than sweet. The ribs are baby back—also known as loin back—and slowly smoked over a hardwood fire.
If you’re interested in the best smoked foods, you may also enjoy reading our Top 5 BBQ Meals for the Summer.
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